The story opens with the birth of John David, known as JD, Dury, who is orphaned within seconds of his birth due to a snow storm-induced accident. He is adopted by Leroy and Emma Bolton, and eventually flees from a group of six bullies. Leroy, a retired Special Forces instructor, punishes him severely and makes it clear that JD is to never flee from anyone again and JD beats the bullies with a stick the next day while Leroy beats their fathers in a fight a short time later.
Then, a few years later, the bullies strike back and almost beat JD to death. Leroy puts JD in homeschooling and begins training him in the art of combat, warning JD that the training he has received comes with great responsibility, before dying at his adopted son’s fifteenth birthday dinner.
As the United State economy continues going downhill, JD begins working to help support his family, but this eventually leads to a feud with Bob Tower, a man very well connected in the local underworld. The feud ends in a PayPerView cage match and JD kills Bob after Bob obtains a knife from an ally during the fight. JD is then convinced to join the army to escape retaliation and swiftly rises through the ranks after playing vital roles in victories against various warlords and terrorist groups.
Meanwhile, a series of presidents is struggling with reviving the United States economy. While one succeeds for a time, a computer attack, teamed with a strategic assassination, undoes all the progress in a day. And the next president faces a series of terrorist attacks that make 9/11 “look like a bloody nose.” JD leads an attack on a terrorist-controlled building but is forced to destroy the building, along with the terrorists, to prevent them from setting off one of the most powerful nuclear weapons ever made. Eventually, these attacks are traced to Central America, and the entire United States Army, followed later by the National Guard, is sent to attack them. With things going badly on the home front, the president asks for UN Peacekeepers and a Chinese force led by General Sung is sent. After a battle, however, it is discovered that the Chinese are actually aiding the US’s enemies in Central America, but this discovery comes too late. The Chinese launch a Neutron bomb Strike on Central America, and the US launches a counterstrike, leaving billions dead, and with the bulk of the US military destroyed, Sung seizes control.
JD is sent by his mentor, who is the commander of what’s left of the US Army, to link up with fringe groups and militias in the occupied US to form an organized resistance. But eventually, the Chinese locate and destroy the headquarters of the US military remnants. JD then finds himself as the commander of the resistance. The rest of the story follows the conflict, including JD allying with many former enemies, but also leaves room for a sequel, though I suspect its focus will be much different if it comes.
I give the book a 5.5 out of 10. I thought the beginning dragged on too long. Also, there are some decisions made by characters in the story that, to me, make absolutely no sense, and there is little mention of how most of the nations outside the Americas are reacting to the events of the story. It does do a good job of showing both sides cross into war crimes territory rather than making the resistance and it allies purely good and the Chinese purely evil, though, with a few cases of resistance members executing prisoners who have surrendered. However, it always explains what drove the resistance members who committed the acts to do so to cast them in a more sympathetic light and which side is supposed to considered good is never left in doubt. I also feel the story could have used more scenes further away from wherever the current main character is, and I don’t recall many full collaborators with the occupying forces appearing, unless you count people whose families have Chinese guns to their heads. This is something I find incredibly jarring and unrealistic for this type of conflict.